Editorials

Sean Shaw, as attorney general, can take Florida in a more enlightened direction

Shaw
Shaw Getty Images

For a complete list of the Miami Herald recommendations for the Nov. 6 general election, click here.

Floridians need an attorney general who is looking out for them, something they haven’t had for too long. Democrat Sean Shaw is by far the best candidate to return the office to the service of the people — and not to elected officials looking to further a mean and narrow political agenda. This has been current Attorney General Pam Bondi’s modus operandi for almost eight years.

Just as unfortunate, Ashley Moody, Shaw’s Republican opponent, appears to worship at Bondi’s feet, promising more of the same. We say, enough.

Shaw’s experience makes him eminently qualified to serve as Florida’s attorney general, the state’s chief legal officer.

Shaw, 40, is the son of the late Leander Shaw, who served as a justice on the Florida Supreme Court. In 2008, the younger Shaw, an attorney, was appointed insurance consumer advocate by then-Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink. He held rate hearings to determine if proposed increases were justified and fair. He was elected to the state House in 2016, where, he said in a joint interview with the editorial page editors of the Miami Herald, Sun Sentinel and Palm Beach Post, that he voted against bills that were anti-union and anti-workers comp.

The attorney general is charged with protecting Floridians from fraud — from consumer to Medicaid scams — enforcing anti-trust laws, defending the state in civil litigation cases and going after drug traffickers, identity theft and gangs. Crime victims seek relief and assistance through the office, which also encompasses the Florida Commission on the Status of Women, the Council on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys and the Office of Civil Rights.

Here’s where he stands on the issues that would fall under his purview:

Shaw says he would issue subpeonas to get to the bottom of toxic algae blooms sullying Florida’s eastern shores: Florida should figure out the cause and “go after it.” Also he would consider suing corporate polluters, which he acknowledges would not be “easy.”

He would hold pharmaceutical companies’ feet to the fire for the role they’ve played in the deadly opioid crisis.

He would resuscitate the civil-rights division, which pursues legal action against entities found to be violating Floridians’ civil rights. For instance, in death-penalty exonerations, Florida has seen the release of the highest number of wrongly convicted felons in the nation. Still, Shaw says that the division has been “shriveling” from a lack of activity under Bondi.

Shaw would request that the Legislature come up with more resources to combat human trafficking.

He would use his office as a “bully pulpit” to repeal the Stand Your Ground law.

Shaw said that the attorney general is not to be the “general counsel to the governor.” He cites Bondi’s lawsuit to hobble the Affordable Care Act, including gutting coverage for pre-existing conditions. It’s no coincidence: Gov. Rick Scott long has been an enemy of the ACA, even helping to craft repeal efforts. But this should be a nonstarter in Florida. In 2015, the state became the largest ACA consumer in the country. Shaw, heeding the voice of Floridians, would push back against this misguided effort.

Shaw’s opponent, Moody, is an accomplished attorney and former federal prosecutor. In 2006, at 31, she became the youngest judge in the state when she was elected to the Hillsborough County Circuit Court.

She expresses fawning admiration for Bondi, who has endorsed her. Though asked three times, Moody dodged the question as to whether she would continue in Bondi’s footsteps. She says that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional, the push to automatically restore ex-felons’ voting rights “goes too far” and that she supports Stand Your Ground because it “codifies the right to defend ourselves.”

Florida has seen enough of this harmful status quo. It’s time for the attorney general’s office to travel in a more enlightened direction. The Herald recommends SEAN SHAW for Florida attorney general.

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